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Why Justin and Selena's Breakup Matters

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Canada-U.S. relations took a bit of a hit last week, and no I'm not referring to Stephen Harper's spiritual brother Mitt Romney's election defeat. I am talking about the breakup of good Canadian boy Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, the American pop princess.

The pair, he 18, she 20, had been a couple for almost two years -- more if you count the fact they were clearly together waaay before their coming out at the Feb. 27, 2011 Vanity Fair Oscar party. A sad day indeed 'twas for all of us.

I'm joking, obviously, but only half-joking. Of course it doesn't matter that a couple of kids decided to call their relationship quits (apparently, it was Selena who broke Justin's heart after he became too needy and tried to put a ring on that). Happens all the time, certainly more often than two kids dating and then staying together for the rest of their lives.

They'll find other mates -- hell, Justin may already have in a 19-year-old Victoria's Secret model (I feel dirty just typing that) from Hungary named Barbara Palvin. Or they won't, whatever. Anyways, it's entirely possible their relationship was a publicity stunt all along, that this young couple was never actually in love and were doing the whole thing because some smarmy manager or an overbearing parent thought it'd be good for T-shirt sales (which it definitely was).

Still, the news was kind of a downer for the many people -- mostly, but not all, young people -- who were to some degree emotionally invested in these two young, good-looking people who appeared happy to be together. And they are a pair of angels, you can't deny it, the porcelainic Gomez and our own Bieber, who, say what you want about his music, at least seems to be a nice, down-to-earth guy and is literally always smiling.

In a time of such crippling cynicism for everything, relationships included (married generals are even cheating now) that so many people adored these adorable people was, well it was rather comforting. What it means is that in spite of the modern glorification of the individual, people, especially young people, still understand implicitly that being with other people is a better way to live life than being on your own.

Don't get me wrong, individuality is important, too -- in life, you're unlikely to achieve anything really significant unless you can show you're different in some way, that you have originality to contribute to the world. Our greatest, most famous leaders, inventors, entrepreneurs, personalities and artists change the world in tangible and emotional ways forever -- that's why they're celebrities. It's a hard thing to do, a very rare thing, and to be honest most of us won't end up being great in this broad sense -- we don't have what it takes, whatever it is.

But if the vast, vast majority of us are condemned to undazzling individual existences all the more reason to focus on relationships, because there we can actually make a difference in some real way, make people feel good and happy and worthwhile, and in return they do the same for us. It's goddamn hard, that's for sure, but the payoff -- when it pays off, because it doesn't always -- is better than pretty much anything you can ever buy or achieve.

Celebrity culture satisfies our lust for individuality, for being different than, and hence superior to, everyone else, to have more expensive clothes and better cars, to take exotic vacations and meet beautiful people, to be so important that everyone else wants to know what we're doing at all times. Celebrities fascinate us because they are not like us. They are special, we are not, all the more reason to be mesmerized by them.

Celebrity relationships, however, are different: they fascinate us for just the opposite reason. In their personal relationship, their couplings and breakups and birthings and whether Brad is actually pinning for Jen, they actually do become like us. It's literally the only way we can ever actually relate to them, know what they're feeling and that it's exactly the same thing we would be feeling if we were in that position.

That's why Bieber and Gomez and the fact they're no longer together actually matters -- why Kate and William, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, even the Kardashians matter. Because we've been there, we are there just as they are. And in that moment the wall between celebrity and ordinary comes down.